UKYA

Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors


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Author Sally Nicholls’ Top 10 UKYA books

images-25Skellig by David Almond

A boy finds a tramp with angel wings in an abandoned garage. Is he an angel, or a new kind of human? A simply-told, but surprisingly complex and utterly beautiful story about how to be human. True fact: I once left a friend waiting for over an hour outside Tesco, because I couldn’t bear to put this book down.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Sex, death, war, incest, first love, country houses, freedom, adolescence, magical children, dangerous journeys, foraging for food, and some more sex. This is a coming-of-age story that sits perfectly between the adventure stories I loved as a child, with the darker edge I love as an adult. Meg Rosoff is American, but this is a very English book.

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Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty

If you loved Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Eleanor and Park’, you need to read ‘Dear Nobody’. Chris and Helen take turns to narrate the story of their relationship, and everything that happens when seventeen-year-old Helen discovers she is pregnant. Another very well written novel with a simple story, this felt very true to my adolescent experience and was a worthy winner of the 1991 Carnegie Medal.

Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

I love Saffy’s Angel. I love it. I love all the Cassons. I love their mother Eve, who is flawed but totally human, and utterly sympathetic. I love Sarah-down-the-road and her evil schemes. I love long-suffering Michael. I love the jokes, and I love the characters and I love the dialogue and … I wish I’d written this book. Go and read it. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Read it now.

images-4The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

Clever, funny, well-observed and occasionally sad. What can I say? There are just not enough books about working-class 13-year-old intellectuals living in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Do you weep, Mrs Thatcher, do you weep?

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

If you don’t love I Capture the Castle, I’m not sure we can be friends. Think Pride and Prejudice, but set in a half-ruined castle in 1920s Britain, narrated by a book-loving seventeen-year-old waiting for love, with a stepmother who roams the countryside wearing only Wellington books. This book is everything you dreamed a book with that plot summary could be. Only better.

The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

I wavered between this book and Northern Lights, but I’m not sure Northern Lights is technically YA, while this definitely is. There are four novels about Victorian detective Sally Lockhart, and while you should start with The Ruby in the Smoke, The Tiger in the Well is my favourite, if only because the premise is so chilling. What if someone altered the records that define your whole life? What if your paperwork now said that your house, your money and even your daughter no longer belonged to you? And what if that person then arrived to claim them?

The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Set in a castle on the Welsh marshes at the end of the twelfth century, this is the story of Arthur. Arthur wants to be a knight, but he’s worried that his father will send him to a monastery. The castle is full of secrets, and none of the secrets is more important than the stone in which he sees stories about another boy called Arthur, who grew up to be king of England. Kevin Crossley-Holland is a poet, and it shows. The medieval history is a bonus.

382229Flour Babies by Anne Fine

I have a soft spot for novels about a whole school class, and Anne Fine excels at them. When the boys of 4C (bottom set Year Ten) are each given a flour baby to care for, it kick-starts a meditation on fatherhood and responsibility for class dunce Simon Martin. Brilliantly observed, occasionally sad, and very funny. (If you liked this, also try her other Carnegie winner, Goggle Eyes.)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

This is obviously the best Harry Potter book. Do not argue with me. Professor Lupin! Snape in a dress! Quiddich matches you actually care about! And the best plot twist in the history of Harry Potter plot twists. Also, the only book with no Lord Voldemort. And did I mention Professor Lupin?

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Author Kate Kelly’s UKYA Top 10

KateIt was hard to choose a top ten – there are so many great UKYA books that I would have loved to include – but here, in no particular order, are my favourites.

1. Arabesque – Colin Mulhern
Gangsters and criminals – and one girl caught in the middle – this is the sort of down to earth gritty crime that I love.

2. Firebrand – Gillian Philip
A wonderful fantasy – a book that draws you in and doesn’t let you go.

3. The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extense
This is a really brilliant book, moving and profound. You’ll think about things differently after reading this!

4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
No list would be complete without including these. What more can I say.

5. The Dreamwalker’s Child – Steve Voake
An all time favourite of mine – powerful fantasy with a wonderfully imagined world.

6. Looking for JJ – Anne Cassidy
Cleverly structured – moving between past and present- a past life that is being kept hidden. Gripping stuff!

7. Blood Ties – Sophie McKenzie
A superb fast paced thriller with a real ethical issue at its core

8. Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman
Dystopia at its best – thought provoking. A classic for its time.

9. His Dark Materials series – Philip Pullman
There is so much depth to these books – wonderful characters, fantastic settings and quite simply a brilliant story and concept.

10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time – Mark Haddon
Sheer brilliance. This is a book that fully deserved all the accolades it has received.

Kate Kelly is a marine scientist by day but by night she writes SF thrillers for kids. Her love of the sea inspires many of the themes in her writing. Kate’s debut novel Red Rock is published by Curious Fox in September 2013.


Sangu Mandanna’s Top 10 UKYA books

Author photo (Colour)My list of favourite books – UK, YA or not – changes all the time! Like, weekly. I read something new and love it and BAM! It’s on the list. But then there are some books that never quite get bumped off the list, no matter what else comes after, and my list today is mostly comprised of these books. I’ve probably forgotten some of my favourites and will later kick myself, but anyway. I will also admit that in some cases my definition of “UKYA” is loose, but to me these books and authors totally count!

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is one of the loose ones. It’s as British as they come, but is it YA? I’m pretty sure the characters are adults. But the themes of self-discovery, first love and coming of age are so intrinsically YA that this is how I always think of it. Either way it’s a fantastic book: it’s funny, it’s dark, it’s romantic, it’s so utterly thrilling. (And it doesn’t hurt that I love the film based on it too!) Basically, I love Neil Gaiman.

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

No list of mine, whatever the genre or country, is complete without these books. They are filled with some of my most favourite characters of all time. I love them to bits.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein is American (I think?) but this novel is totally UKYA. It’s a story about friendship and courage and loyalty, which I love; a story about tricks and twists, which I love; a story that broke my heart, which I love – but it’s also a Second World War story, a spy story, and a story about flying planes, none of which I love. And yet this book is so wonderful, I loved those things about it too.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Broke. My. Heart. Into. A. Thousand. Little. Pieces. That is all I can say. (Actually, I could probably also add that I loved that it was a war story and a dystopian story that did not need or rely on countless tedious, tired details about who, what, where, why, how. It was about characters caught up in the war and that was all that mattered.)

The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff

I’ll give this to Meg: she never writes the same book twice. Oh, and her books are awesome. The Bride’s Farewell is strange and twisty and romantic and utterly beautiful.

Della Says: OMG! by Keris Stainton

(Hi, Keris!) I have such an enormous soft spot in my heart for this book. It is funny, sweet and has a swoon-worthy boy – and those things are always a winner for me – but more than anything else, it really and truly makes me remember what it was like to be a teenager. So few YA books actually do that for me.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

In case you don’t know what this book is about, I’ll tell you: it’s about a boy and a girl who fall in love. They also happen to be brother and sister. By blood. Not adopted, not ‘in spirit’, not grew up side by side. It’s not a new subject for fiction by any means: The God of Small Things does it, Flowers in the Attic does it, other books do it. But this one is special for me. The romance should have made me feel icky, but the magic of this book is that it doesn’t. Everything tells me it’s wrong. This is a relationship that is forbidden in the most basic way. It’s not the casual, not-really-wrong kind of ‘forbidden’ that so many fictional romances play on today. It’s literally taboo. But when I read and reread the book I root for Lochan and Maya anyway. I want them to be together. Their love story is beautiful and passionate and tormented and doomed and all the things you want from a great love story.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Ditto Forbidden. A boy abducts a girl and keeps her prisoner, he loves her, she kind of loves him, but she’s still his prisoner and he’s probably not quite sane… and I want them to stay together?! That is the kind of thing I would never think in real life. And yet when I read this book for the first time all I wanted was for them to be together. That’s what this book does to you. Plus it’s got some stunning descriptions of the hot Australian outback…

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

There are a lot of things I love about these books, from the settings to the characters to the literally allusions, but I’m just going to pinpoint the single most wonderful thing: daemons.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Long before YA dystopian novels became the Big Thing, Noughts and Crosses was a winner. I haven’t actually read the sequels, only because I feel unequal to the trauma of carrying on with the story without a Certain Something (it would be a major spoiler if I told you who or what that Something is, but if you’ve read it you’ll understand) but this instalment is exciting and rich and heartbreaking.

And there you have it!


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The Top 10 Best-Ever UKYA novels – as voted by YOU

I know, I know, it’s taken a while, but we had over 1000 votes – how brilliant is that? So here, without further ado, are (in reverse order)…

THE TOP 10 BEST-EVER UKYA NOVELS (as voted by YOU):

10) A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd

9) Lila series – Sarah Alderson

8) C.H.E.R.U.B. series – Robert Muchamore

7) Chaos Walking trilogy – Patrick Ness

6) The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 and 3/4 – Sue Townsend

5) I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

4) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

3) Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman

2) His Dark Materials series – Philip Pullman

1) Harry Potter series – JK Rowling


Top 10 UKYA favourites by Jesse of Books 4 Teens

Jesse of Books 4 Teens shares his UKYA Top 10.

I knew when I agreed to write this I’d find it tricky but I didn’t think I’d find it this tricky.  It’s surprising just how much US YA there is and some authors who I originally thought were based in the UK, well – weren’t.

So a couple of amendments later, a bit of tinkering here and a bit of tinkering there and I have a list.  Even now though there are more books springing to mind, which are equally as good, but I’m going to stop tinkering now.  This is in no particular order – except the order I thought of them 🙂

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

I read this series when I was still in school and it’s a story that has never, ever left me.

Kiss, Date, Love Hate by Luisa Plaja

A computer game that lets you take control of certain aspects of your friends (and not so friends) life. Enough said I think!  A seriously fun read with such an authentic teenage voice I’m convinced Luisa is a teenager really!

Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind by Andy Robb

A call out to geeks everywhere and a sweet romance told from a male perspective!

A Witch In Winter by Ruth Warburton

Witches, a mystery, good versus evil. Need I say more!

Hollow Pike by James Dawson

I love a good mystery and that’s exactly what you find in Hollow Pike with a little bit of magic sprinkled in for good measure.  I loved the way it switched from the deeply serious to the more light-hearted side without undermining the story.

Rockoholic by CJ Skuse

A shout out to an author (reasonably) local 🙂 I adored Rockaholic – such an original idea – kidnapping a pop star and the ensuing drama is hilarious! Well worth a read.

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriot

This was one of my favourite books last year – a modern fantasy fairy tale with tones of Cinderella sprinkled throughout.

The Truth About Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne

I thoroughly enjoyed this one – such an original story with a truly thrilling aspect to it.

The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish

If scary and creepy is your thing you HAVE to read The Hunting Ground, I’m saying no more.

Department 19 by Will Hill

Oh dear – I’m finishing with a series (well I couldn’t go and forget Department 19 could I?) Yes, it’s vampires but it’s how they were meant to be. Full of blood, nods of the head to Dracula and oh yes and a secret government department to take care of it 🙂